Destined to Be Fatigued

Crashing the car should have been the wake-up call.
The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel while driving a familiar road at midday. If angels exist, they were surrounding the driver’s car that afternoon. Because the car crossed two lanes of traffic when no cars were coming from the opposite direction. Because the vehicle headed toward a fenced-in spread of uninhabited land. Because the accident did not occur where homes line the road. Because the driver escaped with mostly minor injuries and did not harm another soul. And because the metal fence post that came through the windshield missed the driver’s head by just

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To Sleep, Perchance to Die

The best advice I got during residency–in Los Angeles, land of freeways–came from a senior resident. “When you’re driving home on the freeway after being on call, always drive in a middle lane, so when you fall asleep, the lane bumps will wake you up as you start to drift. There aren’t any bumps on the sides.” That tip probably saved my life, and likely that of many other residents as well.
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A Ruffled Mind

A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow. –Charlotte Bronte

A few years ago, after retiring from a long career as a psychologist, and when I was deep into an MFA program in writing, I wrote a poem exploring the reasons, past and present, for my intermittent, middle-of-the-night insomnia.

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Nobody Is Watching

We were first to the auditorium, as I figured we would be. As fourth-year medical students, we were each on a mission: to impress residents and program directors so that we might ultimately obtain what had once been an abstract and distant thought: a job as an orthopaedic surgery resident.
The conference wasn’t to start until 6 a.m., but we arrived early, maybe 5:30 or so. Residents trickled into the auditorium, each casting a judgmental gaze in our direction, while we squirmed in our chairs being choked by our collar and tie.
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Driving the ambulance in crushing fatigue, my weighted eyelids slit to make sodium glows of street lamps into arcing orange, bobbing like stars that penetrate unfired darkness. Saintly portals to dawn.
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Naptime Dexterity

It’s hard enough keeping most kids on a reasonable sleep schedule. When you throw a series of weekly, sometimes biweekly, outpatient surgeries into the mix, it’s “Houston, we have a problem.” A very big problem.
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Heaven in a Hospital Room

I was finally comfortable in my hospital bed but sleep was not coming. I had my eyes closed trying to sleep through the pain of a scrubbed out hip joint infected by a high contrast injection for an MRI procedure.
As I was about to drift off, it was time for the nurse to check my vitals or give me my medicine. She was a larger woman but she moved very quietly thinking I was asleep. She was at the side of my bed and I was watching her, but she was not aware of my watching.
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Valentine’s Day Meltdown

Sleep became a foreign concept to Dad and me when he began to suffer hypoglycemic attacks. These attacks left him mentally disoriented and physically weak. Without immediate food, they could escalate into a more severe condition, leading to a coma or even death. As a result, I set my alarm to awaken me every ninety minutes throughout the night. I would then prepare a snack for Dad—milk and peanut butter on a cracker, pudding, a glass of orange juice—and wake him up to eat.

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